February 26th, 2013
03:37 PM ET

Pedro's Point of View - My top Euro stoppers are...

Leonardo Bonucci, Pepe and Mats Hummels are on Pedro’s shortlist (Getty Images).
Leonardo Bonucci, Pepe and Mats Hummels are on Pedro’s shortlist (Getty Images).

This week on The CNN Football Club show, we are welcoming one of the greatest defenders of all time - Marcel Desailly.

As I started to prepare topics of discussion with my star guest, who won two Champions League titles, the 1998 World Cup and Euro2000, I decided that it would be a good idea to write about the top center-backs in the Champions League this season. In other words, just like Desailly had inspired Olympique Marseille and AC Milan during the '90s, which top stoppers could do the same for their respective clubs during the current campaign?

My shortlist includes Leonardo Bonucci of Juventus, Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels and Pepe of Real Madrid.

Bonucci is imperious. Juventus have recorded four straight clean sheets in the Champions League, and this gentleman is a big reason for that. I have had the pleasure of watching the 25-year-old at various times at stadiums around Europe and he has always impressed me with his positioning and tackling, but especially with his ability to play the ball from the back.

Ask Marcel Desailly your questions

This is a modern defender who does not have to use his size to impose himself on a game. Bonucci glides along the back line waiting for the right moment to intercept play, and then always knows where and how to start an attacking move.

Hummels is a similar kind of player. He has good technique and enjoys spraying the ball around, fitting perfectly in Jurgen Klopp’s system at Dortmund.

If there is one attribute that sets him apart from his teammates it is his command of air space. This is where the 24-year-old makes his mark. The Germany international uses his large frame well in both boxes, winning most defensive headers while also showing an ability to score important goals.

He may be young but Hummels displays great maturity, knowing exactly where to position himself in order to influence play. He is a product of Bayern Munich’s academy, and the Bavarians must be kicking themselves for allowing this star player to leave.

If there is one word to describe Pepe then it is probably extreme.

To be honest, one year ago I would never have picked him as one of the best defenders in the world. He was brash, crass and quite simply, too aggressive.

Pepe was a beast that often got out of control and ended up hurting not only opposing players but also his team’s aspirations with untimely red cards. However, the 30-year-old has grown and in my opinion has been one of the top players in this season’s Champions League.

The Portugal international can do it all. He is a great tackler, header and passer of the ball and rarely makes a mistake. Even when he does, his pace allows him to recover in time and break up play in key moments of games. Pepe has been by far Real Madrid’s best defender this season, with Sergio Ramos suffering from inconsistent form.

Trust me, if Real knock out Manchester United, then the 30-year-old Pepe will have a lot to do with it. He is capable of controlling Robin Van Persie in the second leg at Old Trafford next week.

So which of these center-backs do I pick as the best and most influential?

Bonucci. Juventus are my dark horse pick to win the Champions League and Bonucci is a big reason for that. He has played every minute of every game so far, and with Giorgio Chiellini he forms an intimidating wall protecting Gianluigi Buffon’s goal.

This may be Bonucci’s first Champions League campaign, but you would never know it, looking at his performances on the pitch. If there is one statistic that shows how composed he is, it’s the fact he only picked up only one booking in seven games.

So, watch out for Bonucci and watch out for Juventus; forces to be reckoned with in Europe’s top club competition.

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soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Michael

    Io would have said Barzagli (Juve), but since he isn´t among the options, I voted Bonucci, becaushe his progresses in the last year and six months have been amazing. He almost looks like Franco Baresi, he is a very very good libero and also very strong defensively. Hummels is strong but commits too many errors. And Pepe is very strong too, but Real has conceded too many goals this year in CL ;)

    February 26, 2013 at 5:38 pm | Reply
  2. Aaron

    Some soccer fans says that Italian league is boring because they're focusing on defense; not enough emphasis on free flowing football. Trust me, i like to see a team that defends well. They' have won the world cup five times. They're very strategic, technical, and competitive team, you can see that in their league. I also enjoyed watching the English premier league. In contract to the Italian league, they promote free flowing football.

    Free flowing football is attractive to watch no doubt about that; but i don't think it good enough to win a trophy. I will take Italian defenders over any other football leagues in Europe.

    February 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm | Reply
  3. dan

    im not a juventus supporter but even if bonucci is the best among them, i think barzagli is even better than him... cant understand why he's not in the poll as well

    February 26, 2013 at 6:46 pm | Reply
  4. Luke

    Thiago Silva ? Chiellini?

    February 26, 2013 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  5. Teferi

    Is there any manutd stoper who can stop christiano

    February 26, 2013 at 11:56 pm | Reply
  6. frax

    the best stopper is another Juventus player: Andrea Barzagli, Bonucci is the playmaker of defence but not a stopper

    February 27, 2013 at 2:28 am | Reply
  7. Imran Fariz

    Bonucci has been excellent along with the whole Juventus backline.Hummels & Pepe not only are strong at the back but contribute their fair share of goals as well.Big names like Thiago Silva have gone off the radar but sure to bounce back soon.Keep an eye on Raphael Varane.He's the real package of a defender.

    February 27, 2013 at 3:24 am | Reply
  8. quintino

    I think Barzagli is the best

    February 27, 2013 at 8:04 am | Reply
  9. Fibonacci

    Barzagli is the best, but i voted Bonucci

    February 27, 2013 at 10:40 am | Reply
  10. hamdan

    Barzagli is the best defender in the world this season, but from this trio i see bonucci is the best by faaaaar

    February 27, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
  11. Mark

    you forgot Barzagli!!!

    February 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Reply
  12. krea

    Barzagli and Thiago Silva are the best ones

    February 27, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  13. Nicholas

    BARZAGLI

    February 27, 2013 at 2:12 pm | Reply
  14. Trenta sul campo

    I think that Leonardo Bonucci is better than pepe and hummels , he has a great technique and a big view of the field , he's an excellente long distance passer , he may be the new Beckenbauer.

    February 27, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  15. Berri

    Barzagli is the n'est one

    February 27, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Reply
  16. enzolito

    There is NO doubt about this FACT......BARZAGLI...the best defender in Europe

    February 27, 2013 at 3:45 pm | Reply
  17. fabian langes

    barzagli is the best , second chiellini , third bonucci
    from germany

    February 27, 2013 at 4:30 pm | Reply
  18. cherifabaza

    Barzagli

    February 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm | Reply
  19. Alaa Zaki

    The Best Defender in the world is Barzagli

    voted for Bonucci

    February 27, 2013 at 6:41 pm | Reply
  20. Gabriel Alacqua

    Barzagli is the best defender of the world, but i vote for Bonnie (: Top Defender
    FORZA JUVE!

    February 27, 2013 at 7:14 pm | Reply
  21. Fuzzy Dunlop

    Actually i consider Bonucci to be the weakest of Juventus defencive trio. He has great playmaking ability and has progressed a lot since Conte took over, but i think Barzagli is the best defender in the world right now. it is a shame he does not get a recognition he deserve in foreing media (outside Italy)

    February 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm | Reply
  22. ullrich

    barzagli

    February 27, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Reply
  23. Oscar Meza

    Bonucci,Pepe,Hummels = Barzagli

    February 28, 2013 at 12:15 am | Reply
  24. Nassim

    Bonucci

    February 28, 2013 at 7:41 am | Reply
  25. Dani

    I voted Bonucci.
    But Barzagli in this moment is the best in the world.

    February 28, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Reply
  26. Bilal

    Bonucci is the best. He was like the the great wall of China for Celtic forwards

    February 28, 2013 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  27. Mohsen

    bonucci

    February 28, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Reply
  28. okrex

    For me Barzagli, but between Bonucci, Hulmes and Pepe i say Bonucci

    February 28, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Reply
  29. calcio mania

    bonucci

    March 11, 2013 at 8:23 am | Reply
  30. Patrick Eghan

    Bonucci has been fantastic.. He applies intelligence with a little bit of physical strength..

    March 19, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  31. Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Leonardo Bonucci has been outstanding.

    March 20, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Reply
  32. Jerrold Ryan

    Barzagli! Bonucci! Chiellini!

    April 2, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Reply

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